Control Third-party Access Risk
You're not alone if your organization frequently provides vendors, suppliers, contractors, and non-staff members access to internal networks and systems. Organizations are increasingly dependent on third-party vendors to deliver business-critical products and services. However, your organization takes on enormous risks every time you provide access to a third party. Take the recent Zellis breach, which compromised thousands of their customers.
Who are third-party users?
Third-party access risk refers to the potential security vulnerabilities and risks that arise when your organization grants access to its systems, data, or resources to external parties. These external parties, known as third-party users, are entities or individuals not directly employed by your organization's typical security processes but authorized to access your systems and utilize its services. Third-party users include:
Vendors and suppliers: These are external companies or individuals that provide goods, services, or support to your organization—for example, a managed service provider, cloud provider, or software vendor.
Contractors and consultants: Individuals or firms your organization hires to work on specific projects or provide specialized expertise. They may have temporary access to your organization's systems or data.
Business partners: External organizations your organization has established partnerships or collaborations. They may require access to shared systems or data for joint projects or business operations.
Customers: In certain cases, you may grant limited access to your organization's systems and data for self-service purposes or to interact with specific services.
While third-party users often play a crucial role in enabling business operations and growth, they can also introduce risks if not properly managed. These risks include unauthorized access, data breaches, misuse of resources, or non-compliance with security policies and regulations. To mitigate third-party access risks, your organization must implement appropriate security measures, such as access controls, regular access certifications, and monitoring.
Why is third-party risk increasing?
Over the last few years, we have seen digital transformation rapidly take place. One area of digital risk that has skyrocketed during this period is third-party (aka your supply chain) risk. While third-party associations are not new, the number and scale of these relationships have changed and increased risks for several reasons:
Increased reliance on outsourcing: Many organizations increasingly outsource operations to third-party vendors and service providers. This includes IT services, customer support, data storage, and software development. The more your organization relies on third parties, the greater your exposure to potential risks associated with their access.
Complex supply chains: Modern supply chains are often complex and interconnected, involving numerous suppliers, subcontractors, and partners. Each entity within the supply chain may require access to your organization's systems or data to fulfill its role. The larger and more intricate your supply chain, the higher the potential risk of a security breach or compromise occurring through a third party.
Cloud computing and SaaS: The adoption of cloud computing and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions has grown significantly. Organizations often store their data and run their applications on cloud platforms, which third-party providers manage. While these platforms offer convenience and scalability, they introduce additional third-party access risks, as external entities store and access your organization's sensitive data.
Increased interconnectedness: The interconnected nature of modern business ecosystems means organizations must share information and collaborate with external partners more frequently. This may involve granting access to shared systems, data repositories, or APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). The more integrations and connections your organization has with external entities, the higher the risk of unauthorized access or data breaches.
Sophisticated cyber threats: Cybercriminals have become more sophisticated and persistent in their attacks. They often target organizations indirectly through their third-party partners, as these partners may have weaker security controls or be easier to compromise. Attackers may exploit vulnerabilities in third-party systems to gain unauthorized access to your organization's networks or data.
To mitigate the increasing third-party access risks, your organization must establish robust security policies and protocols when selecting and managing third-party provider access and implement ongoing monitoring and auditing mechanisms to ensure compliance with security standards.
What are the risks of third-party access?
Third-party access poses several risks to your organization. The most common risks are:
Data breaches: If a third party with access to your organization's systems or data experiences a security breach, it can result in unauthorized access, theft, or exposure of sensitive information. This could include customer data, intellectual property, financial records, or trade secrets. Such breaches can lead to financial losses, legal liabilities, damage to your reputation, and loss of customer trust.
Security vulnerabilities: Third-party access can introduce security vulnerabilities into your organization's systems and networks. If the third party has inadequate security measures, outdated software, or weak access controls, it may be a point of entry for attackers to gain unauthorized access to your systems. This can lead to unauthorized modification, disruption, or misuse of your organization's resources.
Compliance and regulatory risks: Many industries are subject to data privacy, protection, and confidentiality regulations. Granting third parties access to your systems or data raises compliance risks if the third party fails to meet regulatory requirements. Non-compliance can result in legal consequences, financial penalties, and damage to your organization's reputation.
Supply chain risks: Organizations with complex supply chains depend on the security practices of their third-party suppliers, vendors, and partners. A compromise in one link of your supply chain can propagate throughout, potentially affecting your organization's operations, product quality, or ability to meet customer demands.
Intellectual property (IP) protection: Third-party access may involve sharing proprietary information, trade secrets, or confidential business processes. If not adequately protected, your organization's valuable IP may be at risk of theft or unauthorized disclosure, potentially undermining your competitive advantage.
Operational disruptions: Inadequate security practices or a lack of robust disaster recovery measures by a third party can lead to service interruptions or operational disruptions. This can impact your organization's ability to deliver products or services, meet customer expectations, and maintain business continuity.
To mitigate third-party access risks, it's crucial to establish clear policies and protocols for third-party access. Implement appropriate security controls, such as access restrictions, data encryption, and regular access certifications, to minimize the potential risks associated with third-party access.
Top 6 features that safeguard your organization from third-party access risk
When it comes to protecting your organization from third-party access risk, we’ve identified six key features that simplify onboarding, off-boarding, and management of third-party access to control risk and minimize threats:
- Policy-based access control (PBAC): Utilizing PBAC allows your administrators to define roles and permissions based on policies. PBAC fuses business roles with policies that define the access privileges of users.
- User provisioning and de-provisioning: Automating, creating, and removing user accounts for third-party access. This includes streamlining the approval process, automatically provisioning access to necessary resources, and ensuring timely de-provisioning when access is no longer required.
- Access request workflow: Implementing a structured workflow for requesting and approving third-party access. This includes defining access request forms, approval hierarchies, and notifications to ensure access requests are properly evaluated and authorized.
- Access monitoring and auditing: Having mechanisms to monitor and audit third-party access activities. This includes logging access events, tracking changes to permissions, and generating reports for compliance and security purposes.
- Integration with Identity and Access Management (IAM) systems: Integrating third-party access management with existing IAM systems to leverage user directories, policies, and access controls. This streamlines the onboarding and management process by utilizing a centralized system for user management.
- Regular access reviews: Conduct periodic reviews of third-party access privileges to ensure they are still necessary and appropriate. This helps identify and remove unnecessary or excessive access rights, reducing security risks.
Your organization doesn't need another point solution to tackle third-party access risk; they may even complicate your troubles. If you're serious about locking down your third-party access risk, the best solution is a platform to manage all identities: employees, external users, IoT devices, and bots. By incorporating these key features, your organization can simplify the onboarding and management of third-party access, improve security, and enhance operational efficiency.
Want to learn more about how SafePaaS can secure your third-party access risk?
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